News25 Investigates

Actions

25 Investigates: Connally ISD

Posted: 9:31 AM, May 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-17 16:05:01-04
25investigates BAM GFX.png
SimpsonConnallyShirt.JPG
JohnSimpson28.png
ChiefRonniePrice.jpg
SimpsonPic12WesleyHolt.jpg
SimpsonPic13LarryCumby.jpg
ThurmanBrown.JPG

LACY LAKEVIEW, TX — In 2018, a Connally ISD assistant principal resigned amid allegations of sexually explicit behavior on the job.

Now, more than six months later, 25 Investigates has learned that the 2018 accusations were not the first against the educator.

*Warning: some of the allegations are graphic and may be difficult for some to hear and see*

The Messages

Vicki* is a teacher with almost 30 years of experience, most of which has been spent in special education.

Once filled with a passion for molding young minds, she now says her days are filled with anguish and fear.

"I could tell he would work very well with our special education department," said Vicki. "He had a good rapport with all the teacher. Very friendly, all the kids liked him."

Vicki is referring to former Connally Junior High Assistant Principal John Simpson.

Before his promotion, Simpson was hired as a behavior intervention specialist for the 2017-2018 school year. He was placed at the junior high working with other teachers, including Vicki.

"There was nowhere to put him in an office, so they housed him in my room," said Vicki. "So, we shared a room, kind of in the middle of the school. We shared a room for about five to six months."

Vicki said they shared mutual friends on Facebook and even shared cell phone numbers because she would often need Simpson's help with certain children in her class.

"School stuff mostly. Like, I would text him 'please come to my room, hurry I need help,'" said Vicki. "Or, you know, sometimes on the weekend, you know, we would all, the special ed department, would text 'how did your week go, boy it was a tough week,' but we would all be included."

Over time, the tone of those messages changed. The first time Simpson sent an uncomfortable message? It was of his wife.

"He sent me a naked picture of his wife," said Vicki. "I knew that he was probably going to be my boss next year and I worked in the same room with him. I mean, I didn't know how one responded to his naked wife."

Vicki said that the conversations continued, something that Andy Kahan of Crime Stoppers Houston said should never have happened from the start.

"A teacher cannot. They're in a trustworthy position," said Kahan. "They cannot be seen deviating from that position. They can't be doing any types of sexting. Any types of that, you and I would be criminally charged with."

"At the end of the year in May, I reported it to one of our assistant principals that I was very uncomfortable because it kept getting more and more every few days," said Vicki. "Mr. John Simpson was making me uncomfortable, he was creeping me out. I think I used that word. I do not want to be left in the room with him."

Vicki and other women reported the behavior to the assistant principal "Mike."*

"I think assistant principals often are kind of the middlemen between the front office and the teachers, so naturally, they were coming to him first," said Raymond Sanders, Mike's attorney. "And him being cautious and not wanting to cry wolf for no reason, collected a little information. Once he realized yes, he believed there was a problem, that's when he tried to get in contact and get a meeting with Principal Brown."

The Meeting

That meeting with Connally Junior High Principal Thurman Brown finally took place on May 22, 2018.

According to records discovered, it wasn't the first time Simpson had made someone uncomfortable at a school. Through an open records request to the Texas Education Agency, there are hundreds of pages of documents related to Simpson's previous jobs and performance. The documents included sanctions and even suspensions at other jobs including Ennis ISD. Before Simpson was hired at Connally ISD, he had been suspended by the TEA in the 2016-2017 school year.

Prior to the initial complaint, Vicki said that Simpson asked her if he could send more personal and private pictures, even suggesting she send illicit photos to him. Feeling pressure that if she didn't step in front of the camera herself, Simpson would use it against her if he ever became her boss.

After the meeting on May 22, Mike was called to the administration building for a meeting with Connally ISD superintendent Wesley Holt and Larry Cumby, the district's chief human resources officer.

In that recorded meeting, Mike told both men the same thing he told Principal Brown: that Simpson was sending inappropriate and sexually explicit electronic messages to female employees.

"I believe that [Mike’s] actions were totally appropriate," said Sanders. "He was cautious in the beginning to make sure that what he was, you know, going up the chain, wasn't frivolous and confirming it and then setting up the meeting. But, it's as if they didn't want to hear that."

On May 23, Mike sent Cumby an email. In part, it said "as I shared with you, female staff members have reported that Mr. Simpson was sending them inappropriate electronic messages."

On May 24, the day before school was let out for summer of 2018, Mike was told that his tenure was over at the junior high and was forced to leave the premises immediately with a police escort.

Simpson was chosen to replace Mike as assistant principal.

In January, the law firm representing Connally ISD, Walsh Gallegos, said,

On Nov. 5, 2018, Connally ISD administration learned of alleged inappropriate conduct, consisting of sending inappropriate electronic messages to another Connally ISD school employee. Other than the initial complaining witness, Connally ISD has no information regarding any inappropriate electronic messages being sent by the employee to any others in the Connally ISD community.

"That's wrong," said Sanders. "If it wasn't for the recording that my client has, they might get away with that. But the fact is, they knew May of last year toward the end of the school year well before they let him come back in the fall of 2018."

Holt has avoided questions and requests for several months.

When asked if he knew about the sanctions and suspension on Simpson, Holt diverted to the legal department.

"When you want to hire teachers and administrators, particularly working in a school district, you have got to do your due diligence," said Kahan. "That does not just involve a criminal background check. It doesn't involve looking in a county that you're hiring somebody for, you've got to do, basically, a national search. You got to dig into their entire background, particularly in cases involving those who are moving from school district to school district."

By the time that school started in the fall of 2018, Simpson was an assistant principal. Part of his job meant observing and auditing Vicki's class from the back of her room.

"And then, at the end of October, is when I got the first penis picture of him from the school bathroom, in the office," said Vicki.

Months later, Vicki said that the harassment escalated when she received a text from Simpson asking her to meet in a book room.

"Well, when my direct boss tells me to go to the book room, I'm going to go to the book room," said Vicki. "Luckily. there was another teacher in my room. I said, 'I'll be right back.' The book room is right across from my room. The door was open, the light was on. I walk in the book room. There are some Lysol wipes on the floor. I bent down, you know, they're in the cellophane paper. I was struggling to get them out. I could hear Simpson behind me, then I heard the door shut. I didn't really even think anything of it. I'm still fiddling with the Lysol wipes and then I could see him go behind me. I heard him say, 'Don't worry, no one else has a key to this room.' And that's when I turned around, he had his pants and his underwear down, masturbating. I don't even remember what I was thinking. I turned, I looked both ways and I ran back to my room."

The Aftermath

On Nov. 5, Vicki said Connally ISD Police Chief Ronnie Price, Holt, Cumby, Connally Junior High Assistant Principal Annie Connor and Brown encouraged her to press charges. After a few months, Price sent an email to Vicki on Jan. 28 that read "I will need a desire to prosecute or a desire not to prosecute form signed by you before I send the case to the district attorney's office."

Robert Callahan was a prosecutor for four years and worked on cases similar to this one. He is now in private practice.

"These are cases that prosecutors care about," said Callahan. "These are the type of victims that we care most about protecting. Take the information that's been gathered by law enforcement, give it to the district attorney's office. Let them make the decision and that's what they're trained to do on whether or not they believe that there is sufficient evidence to take the case to a grand jury."

"When I first started this, I wanted to make sure that he never made anyone else feel like he made me feel," said Vicki. "He almost changed my view on education. How can people do this to other people? So, when I first started this, and decided to go forward with this, people would come up to me and say 'why are you still talking about it, it’s over.' And in my head, I’m thinking, 'it’s not over.' It’s in my head every minute of every second of every day."

As of now, Connally ISD Police Chief Price has not turned in his findings to the district attorney's office or the McLennan County Sheriff's Office. It has now been six months since the investigation began.

KXXV has reached out to Simpson for an opportunity to respond to our investigation, but he has not responded.

It is unknown if Simpson is currently employed at a school.

He has never been arrested or prosecuted of any crime before he joined Connally ISD.

TEA mute on answering questions about educator's alleged misconduct

Where we are now in the investigation into former Connally ISD Junior High Assistant Principal

District knew about inappropriate messages months before investigation

How many investigations into sexual misconduct occurred at your school?

*Some names have been changed.